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Even as many people are going back to their lives as if the pandemic is officially over, people are still testing positive for COVID-19. As of February 2022, many employees in California are entitled to supplemental sick leave for COVID-19 for employees who require COVID-related leave until at least September 30, 2022. 

If you believe your employer violated your rights to COVID-19 supplemental sick leave, speak with a California unpaid wages attorney as soon as possible about your options to collect your unpaid wages or other legal relief.

How do I Qualify For Paid Sick Leave?

California employees can qualify for the supplemental paid sick leave if they:

  1. Work in the private or public sector
  2. Work for an employer with 26 or more employees
  3. Work full-time or part-time
  4. Have a qualified reason for taking sick leave (see below)

If these apply to you, read on to learn about your rights to COVID-19 paid sick leave.

Who is Eligible For Supplemental Paid Sick Leave in California?

First, to be eligible for this leave, you must work for a company that has at least 26 employees in the private or public sector. To be eligible for the first 40 hours of paid sick leave, one of the following must apply:

  1. The employee must quarantine or isolate as recommended by health officials
  2. The employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is waiting for test results
  3. The employee needs to care for a close family member who is quarantined or isolated
  4. The employee needs to stay home with a child whose school or daycare is closed for reasons relating to COVID-19
  5. The employee needs time off to get a vaccine or booster, or they feel symptoms from a vaccine or booster

Under the law, “family members” refers to a spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, and grandchildren.

How the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Works

Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Requirements for Employers 2022

When an employee informs an employer of one of the above situations, an employer should grant immediate paid sick leave. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against the employee for requesting leave or informing the employer of their COVID-19 status (or a family member’s status). Employees should also never experience discrimination because they requested leave or because they tested positive for COVID-19.

Employers must pay the employee their regular wage for these hours of sick leave. Though the supplemental leave was not approved and effective until February 19, 2022, the requirement is backdated to the beginning of the year. This means that an employee who was forced to take unpaid leave for COVID-related reasons between January 1 and February 19 should receive back pay from their employer for the hours they took off work.

Employers can violate this requirement by denying leave requests that qualify under the law or by failing to pay employees for all the paid sick leave they needed within the allowances.

An employee should only take leave for the necessary time. For example, an employer can limit the leave time to three days for vaccine-related symptoms, as those symptoms generally clear up within that time frame.

Additional 40 hours of paid sick leave

For the second 40 hours of paid leave, an employee must show one of the following:

  • The employee has a positive test for COVID-19
  •  The employee must care for a close family member who tested positive for COVID-19

Close family members include spouses, children, parents, grandchildren, grandparents, siblings, or registered domestic partners. Part-time employees are not eligible for the full 80 hours but are eligible up to the number of hours they would work over two weeks. For example, if an employee works 12 hours per week, they can take 12 hours of paid sick leave for the first group of qualified reasons above and an additional 12 hours if they or a family member tests positive for COVID-19.

Retroactive Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

This announcement came from the Labor Commissioner in California on February 19, but the supplemental sick leave retroactively applies back to January 1, 2022. This means that if you took unpaid sick time between January 1 and February 19 for any of the above reasons, you can request retroactive pay for the hours you took from your employer. If your employer refuses to pay you for these hours, speak with an employment attorney in California as soon as possible.

Also read: COVID-19 Concerns for California Employees

Learn About Your Rights from California Employment Lawyers

With the laws and policies constantly changing due to COVID-19 circumstances, many employers are not complying with the law and paying employees for the sick time they deserve. An unpaid wages attorney at Mara Law Firm is ready to help, so please contact us for more information today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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